The West Africa Cable System, a submarine cable project funded by a consortium of operators, started operations on Friday.
The 17,200 km fibre optic cable system, which is known as WACS, connects Southern and Western Africa to Europe.
South Africa’s MTN Group spearheaded the project, in which it invested more than $100 million. The overall cost of the project was constructed $650 million.
Other members of the consortium that funded the project included Neotel, Telkom, SA and Vodacom.
The cable, which consist of four fibre pairs, raises South Africa’s broadband capacity by more than 500 Gigabits per second (Gbps). This will be a much-needed boost to MTN in South Africa, where consumer appetite for data quadrupled during 2011, with data consumption excluding SMS, up by about 200% year-on-year.
In the same period, smartphones usage increased by 128% to 3.6 million users, while data users soured to 10.9 million, according to MTN.
WACS spans the west coast of Africa, starting at Yzerfontein near Cape Town, South Africa and terminating in the UK. The system will give MTN’s operations improved connectivity into the rest of Europe and the Americas.
Trevor Martins, MTN’s global carrier services’ commercial relations lead for the WACS consortium, said that WACS has 15 established terminal stations along its route, including Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Republic of Congo and Namibia. MTN has a presence in each of these countries.
Kanaragaratnam Lambotharan, CTO, MTN South Africa, described the impact of MTN’s investment in WACS as “far-reaching”.
“MTN Group had realised early on that investing in WACS would bring much-needed cost effective broadband capacity to the continent,” he said.
“MTN’s ownership of WACS, together with our considerable interest in EASSy (Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System) will provide MTN with critical route diversity to Europe, from both sides of the continent.”
The consortium behind WACS started work on the project about six years ago.
Alongside the MTN Group Ltd, the WACS Consortium members include Angola Cables; Broadband Infraco; Cable&Wireless Worldwide; Congo Telecom; Société Congolaise des Postes et Télécommunications; PT COMUNICAÇÕES; Togo Telecom; Tata Communications; Telecom Namibia; Telkom SA Ltd; and Vodacom Group Ltd.